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Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Email Is Not a Thread on a Discussion Board

Two minutes ago I received an e-mail that read: why is that  (No punctuation)

It was as if the speaker thought we were having a conversation and answered in what is commonly called stream-of-consciousnessness.

Typically associated with British writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce  stream-of-consciousness writing in the workplace has no redeeming literary values but it does tell a story:

It says to the reader that the reader who engages in plugs of conversation written without mindfulness (no caps or punctuation) lives in the center of his universe where he/she believes that no other conversations are happening without him or are not about him.

It is an arrogant, careless posture that puts the burden on unpacking the message intended on the reader who is first stymied by the sloppy prose and then must back peddle to see what this person is writing about.

It is poor writing.  It does not communicate any idea clearly.  And it does not usually persuade the reader of anything the writer has in mind, but it does convince the reader that the writer does not know the difference between different types and functions of workplace documents--doesn't know the difference between a phone call message or a note on a Post-It sheet or that an e-mail message to a boss (yep, that's me) is not the same type of communique that one writes to a pal where "why is that" would most likely make sense in the shorthand world of fast communication between friends.

While most workplaces attempt to create and foster a teamwork building atmosphere even that goal should not result in the off-the-cuff, ill-considered communications that show up in professionals' e-boxes where they are read as workplace documents and used, like hard copy documents, for recordkeeping and tools of productivity.

Any time you have to squint at the screen and ask yourself 'Who is this and what is he writing about?' it might be best to simply hit the reply button when the question asked of you is the one the sender needs to reconsider: why is that  ?

1 comment:

  1. I agree there are many other ways to have a conversation,but when sending an e-mail it is used to send a formal message, that is clear and to the point, and conveys what is needed of the of the person it was sent to.Not a way of having a instant conversation.